Since November 2009 the Able the Disabled Foundation has been providing hippotherapy to children with special needs. Hippotherapy is a type of therapy using horses and aims to improve balance, posture as well as strengthen muscles and many children in Pattaya have benefited from regular therapy sessions.
Sandra Cooper, the driving force behind the Abel the Disabled Foundation, started offering therapy using horses to local children here in Pattaya after she founded a similar project in Malaysia, and where she spent ten years offering this service to children with special needs.
Sugus won the junior walk trot test.
Many disabled people benefit from riding, some from the therapy it gives, others by actually learning to ride. The benefits can be enormous and wide-ranging. They include improvements to balance, co-ordination, muscle tone, concentration, co-operation and behavior. The riders may benefit from the necessary discipline, respond to requests, overcome fears, learn trust and interact socially with their helpers and their peers, developing an increase in confidence and self-esteem.
It takes many hours, months and sometimes years to train some special needs riders to compete at a given level. After attending weekly sessions at Horseshoe Point for many months, fourteen children, all with varying special needs, Downs syndrome, autism and learning difficulties, were selected to compete in the inaugural Able the Disabled Foundation Dressage Competition at Horseshoe Point Pattaya held on Saturday June 22nd 2013 under International Riding for the Disabled rules. The dressage tests are a Walk Test and a Walk/Trot Test taken from the UK system.
During the Walk Tests, the rider maybe led, and have a side walker.
Several children from the Father Ray Center for Children with Special Needs participated and they all looked smart in their riding uniforms, complete with colourful ties.
The riders, competing in two separate groups, young children and teenagers, were expected to perform a number of routines around the arena while staying in control of their horse and at the same time attempting to impress the two judges.
Dressage tests consist of a series of circles, turns and transitions. For a person with limited physical ability, who has mastered the basic skills of halt, walk and steering, dressage provides a continuing challenge and the opportunity to compete against others.
The overall winner, Tom, is congratulated by Sandra Cooper, right, and volunteer trainer, Diane.
Riding for the Disabled standards range from Walk Tests where the rider maybe led, and have a side walker. As they progress they remove the side walker and can ride independently in a Walk/Trot Test. As riders progress to riding independently off the lead rope they can have a caller telling them which letter in the arena to go to and what shape to perform. Later the rider will develop skills to remember the test, and compete it on their own.
Many nervous parents looked on, but at times several could be seen hiding their eyes with their hands and one was heard saying a prayer before her child entered the arena.
Each test has two salutes which the riders love to do.
This is the first time that such a competition has taken place in Pattaya, and it could be the first of its kind here in Thailand.
The Walk Test lasts for 8 minutes consisting of some 20 metre circles which must be ridden correctly in shape and size. The Walk/Trot Test moves the rider up to another level where some sitting or rising trot will be performed from certain dressage letters. Each test has two salutes which the riders love to do. Marks are out of 10 per movement within the dressage test. These tests encourage memory, following instructions, co-ordination, basic riding skills and a huge feeling of achievement.
Each of our 15 riders is awarded a medal and rosette for competing and the rider with the most marks gets their name on a large trophy sponsored by Pattaya Sports Club.
The rider’s smile says it all!
These children have benefited from the hippotherapy. Children who have spent most of their life lying in a chair, unable to sit upright, now they are able to do so and it is all down to the therapy they have received at the Able the Disabled Foundation.
For those participating in the dressage competition it was not just about winning a trophy, a medal or a rosette. Being able to show off their new skills, make their parents proud and feeling a sense of achievement was more important. The rosette and the medals were just a perfect end to a wonderful day.
Tom Whitnal won the senior walk trot test.
We would also like to thank Horseshoe Point Hotel for sponsoring the rosettes and medals. Our competition white shirts for all the riders are sponsored by Esso. Thanks also go to all our volunteers who give up their time for this Foundation and to Horseshoe Point for their continued support.
When the competition was complete, Sugus won the junior walk trot test whilst Tom Whitnal won the senior walk trot test.
Sandra Cooper with one of her young riders
A salute before starting.
Miss Bee from the Father Ray Foundation was one of the older participants.
The beautiful rosettes (and the medals) were a perfect end to a wonderful day.
Tom Whitnal shows off his trophy for winning the senior walk trot test.
Receiving her beautiful rosette after a splendid performance.
Happy to participate in this great event.
It was truly a day to remember.
Ploy did not win the competition, but she seems happy with her rosette